The term "leaky gut" is thrown around a lot these days. Leaky gut can be linked to so many conditions; especially ones related to the gut and chronic inflammation. Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, even autoimmune diseases can all be linked back to leaky gut.
But what exactly is your gut?
Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system. It’s not as simple as a hose or pipe; it’s an amazing tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.
Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they pass through this cellular tube into the circulatory and lymph systems, to your liver, and the rest of your body, all the way to your toenails; and your cells get all the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
It's also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don't want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
FUN FACT: About 70-80% of our immune system is housed around our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders. Sometimes, maybe too ready!
How does a gut become “leaky?”
Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “intestinal permeability.” This means that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they normally would keep out. They “leak.”
The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a number of diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you're intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut.
Lifestyle factors such as stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of microbes inside the gut is thrown off, this can also contribute to excessive permeability.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become "permeable" or leak. At this point incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
The first place affected is the gut